Overview: Spending time finding a homeschool curriculum can be frustrating, but it’s even more frustrating when your homeschool curriculum isn’t working. Here’s how to easily fix it.
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I’m obsessed with homeschool curriculum.
Waiting for the delivery guy…
Opening the box…
That new curriculum smell…
It’s something about opening up a brand new curriculum and flipping through the pages that sets my soul on fire.
Do you feel that way when looking at homeschool curriculum?
No? Just me?
But to be honest, I don’t use half of the curricula that I’ve purchased.
Instead, I’m more of a curriculum dabbler. I choose one main curriculum and use the others for supplemental activities to deepen understanding or explore an interest.
Today I want to spend some time talking about how to choose a homeschool curriculum and what to do when your curriculum just isn’t working.
5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Homeschool Curriculum
Before you dive into the never-ending world of homeschool curriculum, you want to take some time to reflect on what you’re looking for. When you take the time to reflect on these 5 things, your homeschool curriculum choices start to narrow, and choosing the best one for your family becomes super easy.
Before you even hit Google to begin your search, you need to define your goals. I recommend creating 3-4 goals per kid. If you reach those goals, you can always create more, but it’s better to just focus on a few at a time.
I usually create 1 for math, 1 for reading, and 1 for writing. Make them specific and attainable within the school year. I tend to make goals that move them forward one small step until they fully master the skill.
By creating smaller goals, you and your child will feel more successful.
Now that you know your goals, you can begin looking for a curriculum that will help you achieve those goals.
Your Ideal Homeschool Day
Before you can consider how to start homeschooling, it’s important to think about your ideal homeschool day. If you lived in a perfect world, what would your homeschool day look like? What would you do? What would you learn about?
Write it all down. Don’t hold back and don’t let outsiders influence your perfect day. However, it is a good idea to do this exercise with your children. Combine all of your ideas into one perfect day.
It’s a good idea to have your ideal homeschool day in your mind when looking for your homeschool curriculum.
The chance of your ideal day happening may be slim, but if you’re using a curriculum that doesn’t even allow for your ideal day to happen then it never will.
It’s all about having the possibility of your ideal homeschool day.
Your Educational Philosophy
Let’s travel back in time with this one. Take time to reflect on your past educational experiences. What were your favorite subjects? Did you enjoy about your educational experiences? What didn’t you enjoy? What would you change about your educational experiences?
Use your answers to design your own educational philosophy for your homeschool.
An important thing to remember here…
You are not choosing a homeschool method. You’re taking your past educational experiences and creating your own unique educational philosophy. How do you want the educational experiences to go for your children?
Think about it this way…
If in 20 years, your child sits down to do this exercise, what would you want them to write down as their favorite parts of their educational experience.
Your Child’s Learning Style
Most homeschool parents don’t use a child’s learning style correctly. They tend to use only their preferred learning style, but that can severely limit your child’s educational experiences.
All kids learn best through hands-on experiences, no matter what their learning style may be.
A learning style should be used to introduce new concepts/skills then a hands-on activity should follow it to help solidify the information that was learned.
For example, if your child is an auditory learner, you may watch a documentary on fossils and famous paleontologists. To help make this information stick, you could follow the video with a fossil dig.
But there is a catch with learning styles as well. Just because your child has a preferred learning style, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use other types of learning styles to introduce concepts. You should use a variety of learning styles throughout the year, especially if your child has a hard time grasping a concept.
By introducing concepts in a variety of ways, your child deepens their learning and develops a greater understanding.
So when you’re looking for a homeschool curriculum, you want to make sure the most prevalent learning style is your child’s preferred learning style, but it should also include hands-on activities and other activities that incorporate the other learning styles.
This tip alone should dramatically decrease your curriculum choices. As a quick guide, visual learners do best with a literature-based curriculum. Auditory learners do best with an online/video-based curriculum. Kinesthetic learners will do best with either since both should include hands-on activities.
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Why Most Homeschoolers Are Using Homeschool Curriculum Wrong
Most homeschool parents choose one or two curriculums then follow it step by step and day by day.
Even though that’s how the curriculum designer intended you to use the curriculum…
It’s not at all the correct way to use it.
We all have our own unique learning timeline. The experiences we have are what shapes that timeline. For example, if you grow up in a family that puts a huge emphasis on reading then chances are you will be an early reader without much effort.
Curriculum is more like a road trip map.
When you sit down to plan out a road trip, you most likely have one destination in mind…
The end destination.
But all the pit stops along the way are mostly unknown. You may see an interesting billboard and decide to check it out or hear about a quiet little diner that you just have to stop at.
A homeschool curriculum is the same. It is a map to get you to your end destination, but all the pit stops (or rabbit trails) are unknown.
The Negative Impact of Using a Homeschool Curriculum Wrong
If you follow a curriculum step by step and day by day, you’re missing most of the learning opportunities.
Rabbit trails are usually where most of the learning happens.
Having a homeschool curriculum is a good idea because it helps you get to your end destination, but taking a break to explore the topics of interest your child suggests or spending more time on a skill that your child struggles with makes learning more meaningful.
And not to mention learning gaps. When you stick to the curriculum instead of ensuring your child fully masters a skill before moving on, you create learning gaps.
When most parents decide to start homeschooling, their ultimate goal is to raise a child who loves learning and embraces the natural learning process. But at the same time, they fear that they are missing something important.
Curriculum helps to make sure you’re not missing anything important whereas rabbit trails build that strong love of learning.
Homeschool Curriculum: The Day-By-Day
I always start with the curriculum. When choosing a curriculum, you want to make sure it starts where your child is in that particular skill or topic. Then you just start. Follow the curriculum day by day until your child develops an interest.
Maybe your curriculum is about US History. As you’re going through the curriculum, you realize your child has a really strong interest in Harriet Tubman, but the curriculum only spends 2 days on her.
This is your pit stop. Put the curriculum aside and do a mini-unit on Harriet Tubman. Let your child guide you with their questions. When the interest starts to fade, head back to the curriculum at the point where you left off.
The same goes for an academic-based curriculum as well (language arts and math). For these curriculums, it’s more about stopping to deepen the understanding of a skill rather than learning about an interest.
For example, if your curriculum has your child learning the 6 times tables for a week but at the end of the week, you notice your child hasn’t fully mastered them yet then you stop the curriculum. Plan games and other hands-on activities that help your child master the 6 times tables before moving on with the curriculum. If you don’t take the time now, then you’ll create a learning gap later.
Homeschooling is all about creating a learning lifestyle. Having a homeschool curriculum is a great resource, but it shouldn’t be your only source of learning experiences.
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